Maribel Montes-Zuluaga is a lawyer by profession but her passions and interests lie in leadership, coaching and individual development broadly. Born in Venezuela, she spent most of her life in Colombia, where she met her husband Carlos. They came to Champaign-Urbana in 2009 to pursue graduate studies at the University of Illinois. For the time being, Maribel is primarily devoted to her kids, 4-year-old Carla and toddler son Mateo. She is also an active member in the community, serving as a Community Aide for University Housing, a coordinator for this weekend’s Read Across America event or in the parents/staff group at University Primary School.
See why we think Maribel Montes-Zuluaga is a Chambana Mom to Know.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when you moved here, and how did you overcome it?
Coming to Champaign-Urbana meant leaving behind a life of comfort and independence. Adapting to a grad student lifestyle hasn’t been easy, and has some big sacrifices in there. However, all the new experiences I’ve been exposed to in C-U have made everything worth it.
Q: You live in Orchard Downs, as do many international families who have connections at the University of Illinois. What do you want people to know about Orchard Downs as a “community within a community”?
For most of us, our time at U of I is a once in a lifetime opportunity in a place like no other, and we really treasure it. Orchard Downs is a multicultural community whose members care deeply about family and place a high value on education. And for those with kids, it is a perfect location to raise cosmopolitan children.
Q: What does your role entail as a community aide at Orchard Downs?
I serve as a liaison between residents and Graduate Housing. I also organize educational, social and multicultural events that fulfill needs for every person in the community.
Q: What particularly excites you about Read Across America this year?
It is the first time we will have Spanish book readings every 15 minutes throughout the event. There are amazing readers from many different countries.
Q: You are the volunteer coordinator for RAA. This is one of our community’s great annual events. What keeps it going every year?
Definitely the passion, dedication, leadership, and love for children’s literacy from everyone in the committee. I feel fortunate to be part of such an amazing group of people.
Q: What is a typical weekend like for your family?
Weekends mean together time for the four of us, so we are constantly looking for interesting family events around CU. But we also enjoy the simple things, like going to a park, having walks outside or just spending time at home watching a movie or cooking together.
Q: What’s your favorite place in C-U (outside of your home/neighborhood)?
It has to be the Stephens Family YMCA. I go there around 2-3 times a week and it is the place where I get some ‘me’ time. Very often, I go there just looking for alone time in a silent, low-lit sauna.
Q: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
I did acting back in high school, and I would love to do it again. I see it as a way to quench my thirst for drama ;).
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